Cardinals roll behind big early lead

Thursday, July 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:22 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

MONTREAL — Dan Haren helped stake himself to a big lead before he had thrown his first pitch. Then he made sure not to waste it.

Haren, a St. Louis rookie, pitched seven shutout innings, and Mike Matheny hit a three-run double in a seven-run first to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to an 11-1 victory against the Montreal Expos on Wednesday night.

Haren (2-2) hit an RBI double to cap the first, then scattered four hits in seven innings. He is 2-0 in his past four starts.

“We got all those runs to start off the game and it’s not easy to pitch when it’s like that, but it’s a lot easier — you’re just trying to get outs,” Haren said.

St. Louis is 5-0 against Montreal this season, outscoring the Expos 30-6.

“They’ve played really well against us,” the Expos’ Jose Vidro said. “Last time we played over there they swept three games, and now they’ve done it with pitching against us here.”

Tino Martinez hit a one-out RBI single in the first, and Edgar Renteria had a two-run double. Matheny’s double chased Claudio Vargas (6-7), who got one out and left trailing 6-0 after allowing seven straight batters to reach.

“(Vargas) wasn’t missing any bats,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said.

He held a team meeting after the game.

“I’m just upset with the effort the last two nights,” he said. “The energy level is not there, and that’s all I ask them to do.”

Edgar Renteria hit his 11th home run off Julio Manon in the eighth.

Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to a team-high 14 games in the ninth with an RBI single as the Cardinals added three runs off Manon.

Haren, brought up from Triple-A Memphis on June 30, faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings, getting double plays after Brian Schneider’s leadoff single in the third and Endy Chavez’s leadoff walk in the fourth.

“Once I settled in, if a runner got on I was just trying to get a double play and not get that big inning,” Haren said.

He left after seven innings, stranding runners at first and second in each of his last two innings.

“What he did really good was when there was potential damage, he made good pitches down in the zone,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “A good example is the couple of double plays at key times. He’s shown a lot of composure, a lot of guts, with men on base.”

Jason Simontacchi allowed three straight singles in the eighth, including Endy Chavez’s run-scoring hit.

With one out in the first, J.D. Drew and Pujols drew back-to-back walks and Martinez made it 1-0 with an RBI single.

Scott Rolen drew St. Louis’ third walk to load the bases and Renteria followed with a two-run double to make it 3-0.

Montreal right-hander Roy Corcoran made his major league debut, relieving Vargas and allowing Haren’s hit. Recalled Tuesday from Double-A Harrisburg, Corcoran got two flyballs to get out of the inning and retired 11 of 12 batters after Haren’s double.

Left-hander Eric Knott followed with two perfect innings and Hector Almonte got one out in the seventh before Drew doubled. The three Montreal relievers retired 19 of 20 batters over that stretch.

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